Vicious circles of contempt
Tuesday June 19, 2007
Dear Ms Miller,
I am a 32 year old male from ireland. For those 32 years, I have used unaccountable amounts of energy in being the good boy for my parents.
Through therapy, I have come to the truth (not by any means integrated or fully accepted) that my parents shamed me to the core.
My mother’s disgusted face has been present in my line of sight from the beginning. My earliest memory is of crawling on the ground and seeing a very disjointed kitchen floor.
In adolescence, I took refuge in anxiety. The pounding in the my head, my ears of my mothers condescending, contemptuous voice was and needed to be repressed at that time.
My inner world was closing in. I stopped eating in front of people (my father forced me to eat certain foods, and pushed my face into food when I did’nt eat), I was afraid of leaving the house, afraid of “being seen” by people for the agonizing shame I felt. From when I was 20 ’till i was 28, felt terror on leaving the parental home. But the terror was of the past, not of the present.
I found a loving therapist who encouraged me to face my fears of leaving home.
I am now 32 and have succeeded. I work, am married, have a creative side and live in my own home. This took all my courage and energy I had in my body.
It was a pure action of will.
January last, I realised my will was’nt enough, I had exhausted my resources and on prompt from my therapist, I opened my heart. I have discovered deeply profound and engrained cycles of contempt and disgust for myself and sometimes others. What hurts most is my therapist has done everything in his power, he has been compassionate, loving, encouraging, offered long periods of time free of charge. He genuinely loves me. The part that hurts is that I turn my contempt towards him, even after he loves me. He has encouraged me to direct my contempt and rage towards my mother which i do. I then feel powerful feeling of helplessness , fear of abandonment, recrimination and I
am once again like the little child who ran upstairs to beat myself and tell my self I’ll kill myself after experiencing the horror of my mother
brandishing her knife at me telling me she’d murder me.
These feelings I experience today, utter fear, confusion are frightening. I then either direct my contempt towards my therapist or myself. When I say I direct my contempt, I do not mean in an outwardly active way, I have never physically hurt anyone. I despair at the thought that I am contemptuous toward my loving witness. When he loves me , I feel boundless pain. The hurt only comes up when I am loved. I find myself back to being the child who wanted to die. I think of suicide nearly every day because of the pain. I do not want to hurt my wife or my therapist or those close to me. I just want the pain to end. I have confronted my parents only to be met (for the most part) with dismissal, denial and worst of all, them making light of it!!!
That is damning. I do want to honour the precious child within but am not sure if I can do so.
I need the love of my therapist but find that I am damaging that with my contempt.
Contempt that originates in my mothers pounding screams. I search for my own courage but it seems like the cycles of contempt never end. I have worked for 7 years, with blood and sweat but blood and sweat are not enough. I fear being like them and I know I identify with them, yet I live my life being the opposite of how they treated me, yet the contempt won’t go, in fact the harder I push it away, the stronger it becomes.
Do you have any advice for working through/with or even transforming contempt?
It is’nt a pleasant feeling and i wish to be free of it.
Thank you for your time and your honesty and courage in your writings,
AM: Could it be that your deepest, most justified contempt is the contempt of the intelligent small boy for his sadistic parents who tortured pitilessly their child? But it was very dangerous to show and even to HAVE these feelings THEN. So they could never be felt, they had to be suppressed. Today, they want to be acknowledged by the conscious adult you are becoming, and they are, fortunately, at first directed to people who will not punish you, because they love you. To feel all these awful feelings, you must feel safe. When you can feel the fear of the small boy, you can tell him that now he is no longer in danger and help him to direct his contempt toward your parents who fully deserved it.